Essential plant oils have been used to heal the body for centuries, but you’re more likely to find them at spas than a doctor’s office these days. But that doesn’t mean they’re lightweights when it comes to promoting overall wellness. Plant oil derived from cinnamon, for instance, can ease the tension that causes headaches; ginger yields a plant oil that can aid digestion.
How do plant oils aid in healing? According to ancient understanding, the body has seven main energy points, called chakras, which are believed to correspond to vital areas in the physical body. “Each one of these points matches up with certain essential oils for healing purposes,” says Monica Munoz, spa manager at The Living Spa at El Monte Sagrado in Taos, N.M., which offers a chakra (“Touch the Core”) massage.
You don’t necessarily have to book a spa treatment to reap the benefits of plant oils, though. Find them at your local natural grocery, spa or retailer (avoid mainstream pharmacies or big-box stores like Walmart). “Ask the person working there where the oils have been created, and purchase ones crafted within your region. The plants grown and harvested near you will be the most beneficial because they have captured properties from your environment, like the air you breathe,” advises Munoz. Look for essential oils with a light base-carrier oil, like jojoba and sweet almond oil. Also check out the ingredient list—it should be relatively short, and any items listed should be recognizable.
Because plant oils are concentrated, a little goes a long way. “Place one or two drops on specific areas that are bothering you. You can apply it directly to your skin or add it to an unscented lotion and rub it in,” says Munoz. There also are some essential oils that are great to use in your shower or bath. For example, adding a drop of spearmint as the shower is heating up creates a nice healing vapor sensation. Or, go with a couple drops of chamomile for a soothing bath. Otherwise, keep plant oils in your purse to nurse ailments ranging from a tension headache to lower-back cramps.
Here, Munoz walks us through the body’s seven chakra points and which oil to use for each area.
1. Crown chakra: “This is the head area and corresponds to feeling tension, stress and headaches on the top and back of the head,” Munoz says.
Essential oils: Cyprus and cinnamon
2. Brow chakra: “This area is connected to the crown chakra, but deals more with the front of your face, like forehead headaches, congestion, sinus pressure and anything to do with your eyes.”
Essential oils: Frankincense and sandalwood
3. Throat chakra: The neck, including the lymphatic gland and throat. “In addition to physical issues like a sore throat from a cold, it’s also a region on the body where repressed emotions can manifest—for example, if you are unable to vocalize a fear or stress in your life, you may find a pressure or tightening around your throat,” Munoz says.
Essential oils: Cyprus and geranium
4. Heart chakra: The upper chest area, including the lungs and heart, where you can experience congestion and heart ailments. “Think of your heart as your core, your sunlight. Just like the sun gives energy and power, so does your heart. If there’s something physically or emotionally going on in that area, these essential oils help melt away those blockages.”
Essential oils: Black pepper and eucalyptus
5. Solar chakra: This is the digestive area and deals with anything from food allergies to cramping and bloating. “Essential oils aren’t remedies to cure or improve food allergies, but they can help reduce uncomfortable symptoms.”
Essential oils: Ginger, chamomile and lemongrass
6. Sacral chakra: The lower pelvic region, which can relate to things like sciatic issues, menstrual cramps and pregnancy pains. “During pregnancy, you can get a lot of sacral fluid that can build up and create tension in your tailbone space. Rubbing a couple drops in that area will help keep it open.”
Essential oils: Jasmine and spearmint
7. Root chakra: Your feet and lower legs, where you can feel cramps, swelling and more. “This is the chakra that keeps us grounded, and an area on the body that we don’t pay enough attention to. We’re always running around; always with shoes and socks on. Every now and then, take your shoes off; walk in the grass; touch things with your toes; and recharge. Drop a few essential oils on the tops of the feet and massage for 5 minutes.”
Essential oils: Sage, thyme and angelica